Oksana Rosenblum et al., "Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul: Mykola (Nik) Bazhan’s Early Experimental Poetry" (Academic Studies Press, 2020)

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Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul: Mykola (Nik) Bazhan’s Early Experimental Poetry (Academic Studies Press, 2020) presents a collection of early works by Mykola Bazhan, one of the most enigmatic figures in Ukrainian literature of the twentieth century. The volume was prepared and edited by Oksana Rosenblum, Lev Fridman, and Anzhelika Khyzhnia. The name of Mykola Bazhan is probably quite new to English-language readers.

Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul is an excellent introduction into both life and writing of the Ukrainian poet who participated in one of the most vibrant creative periods of Ukrainian literature—the 1920s—who survived the Stalinist regime, and who somehow managed to preserve the magic of his style and language while being a Soviet functionary. In this regard, the title is rather eloquent: Bazhan’s writing arises at the intersections of multiple inner struggles, compromises, and uncertainties. His language, which may appear cryptic, is some sort of manifestations of a soul that is tortured by doubts and that tries to win the war with itself. Bazhan’s language is hard to render: it gives freedom and, at the same time, it entraps readers and translators as it asks for minute dissections on the micro levels. From this perspective, the language is a tool of both survival and creativity. The poetry and prose pieces, which are included in this volume, are supplemented with critical essays and commentaries, which amplifies the accomplishments of the project. Quiet Spiders of the Hidden Soul provides further insights into both Ukrainian and Soviet literatures.

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed is a PhD student in the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures.

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